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Israel and Palestine – a cycle of violence

Sir, – We are truly horrified at the violence in Gaza, Jerusalem, and throughout Palestine and Israel. The death of innocent civilians, in particular children, is a tragedy and, as alluded to by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, may constitute war crimes.

We are more than ever convinced that it is time to address the root causes of this tragedy.

In immediate terms, we have seen efforts by Israel to remove Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, the latest in a long programme of expulsions and home demolitions, and their replacement by Israeli settlers.

This is part of a much deeper, decades-long process of dispossession, removal, segregation and fragmentation of the Palestinian people from their communities and lands and the strategy of encircling them in non-contiguous enclaves.

Gaza has been under blockade by Israel since 2005 with the resultant destruction of its vulnerable economy. It is completely cut off from the outside world.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and Palestinians living in Israel are systematically discriminated against, and are all too familiar with the process of expulsion and displacement witnessed in Sheikh Jarrah.

This amounts to a grave and illegal treatment of an entire people, and the situation is now at a dangerous inflection point.

Ireland and other EU states have rightly called for de-escalation, but doing so without a meaningful and credible proposal for what comes next is ineffective, and insulting to the many Palestinians and Israelis who want to see a just and lasting peace.

When hostilities de-escalate, the international community has been willing to let things simply return to “normal”; in Israel and Palestine, this “normal” is a situation of institutionalised discrimination and injustice. Until that is addressed, we will see more weeks like this.

Israel’s deliberate strategy of taking the most Palestinian land with the fewest Palestinians possible, and enclosing an ever greater number of Palestinians in the smallest possible space, must be challenged and reversed.

A growing number of Palestinian, Israeli and US human rights organisations, as well as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, have argued that this decades-long strategy amounts to apartheid.

The events of the past week have done little to dispel that analysis.

For years, grave breaches of international law have been met with statements of condemnation but few real consequences. Ireland and like-minded states must work to end this culture of impunity if we’re serious about addressing the conflict it perpetuates. – Yours, etc,

ROSAMOND BENNETT,

Chief Executive,

Christian Aid Ireland;

CAOIMHE DE BARRA,

Chief Executive,

Trócaire;

MARIE CRAWLEY,

Chair, Sadaka –

The Ireland Palestine

Alliance;

FATIN AL TAMIMI,

Chair, Ireland-Palestine

Solidarity Campaign,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current tragic situation in Israel/Palestine, on these pages, on social media, and among politicians, the rhetoric has been dialled up to a frenzy. It is worth asking ourselves what are the pressing issues right now. Whether Israel had misjudged the issue of evictions in Jerusalem, whether long-standing resentments were inflamed on Yom Yerushalayim and the festival of Eid, the fact is that rockets are being fired from Gaza into Israel and there is violence on the streets.

The mantra repeated constantly is that Israel uses excessive force to combat the rocket fire across the border on its neighbourhoods.

What would the world have Israel do? Is it their fault that they have a strong army?

Is it their fault that Hamas, a terrorist organisation, launches missiles with regard for neither Israeli nor Palestinian civilians?

Is Israel supposed to sit there and watch children living in underground shelters indefinitely?

Of course the Palestinian casualties are higher. Of course Israel is stronger. These are facts. They are horrendous facts. It would be better for everyone to sit down together and hammer out a lasting peace. But it is simply not possible now.

As the Israeli ambassador put it, the current situation, the long history of the region, and the multilayered balance of powers, going back centuries, are complex and beyond a quick fix.

Mutual respect, patience and a will to compromise should always be on the table. But rockets coming over your border day and night?

You just sit there saying, “So be it. We don’t know how to stop these without being the stronger party. We’ll just have to put up with it”?

I defy any government to take that line. I defy all the clever, armchair experts to come up with a solution to that. – Yours, etc,

HEATHER

ABRAHAMSON,

Dublin 14.